On Wednesday, May 1st, 2023 – the United States of America kicked off a nationwide celebration of “AAPI Heritage Month” (Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month). 

For Student Life department assistant Ryan Samn, it was also a kick off for his first published work & e-Book titled Khmer Gat Chen – Southern Chinese Diaspora in Cambodia. The book is an examination & resource guide to better understand the depths of Chinese Cambodian ancestry, culture & history. The Chinese have been migrating to Cambodia since the Angkor period. Many famous Chinese Cambodians have come to the U.S. sharing their stories as well. Dr. Haing Ngor & Ted Ngoy “the Donut King” are a few familiar names that may come to mind.

Written with an aim to help educate & inspire Asian Americans who are living outside of the homeland to seek their roots, Ryan’s e-Book is a study of the five groups of Southern Chinese who settled in Cambodia. Informational topics include: 

  • brief language/terminology
  • a study of Chinese celebrations that take place in Cambodia 
  • the blended spiritual practices with roots from both Chinese & Khmer culture 

This 54-page colorfully illustrated e-Book is the first of its kind coming from an Asian American perspective & much of this research is shared in the English language for the first time ever. One of the ways Ryan hopes his book can inspire readers is for them to reflect & take the time to also see value in their own lineage. As Skyline College’s AAPI population consists highly of Burmese & Filipinx students, one of his goals is to help people find a way to share their family history & cultural knowledge in an academic setting – “most Southeast Asian history lessons offered in school are about the French Indochina period & the Vietnam War – very rarely are historians taking the time to share the chapter after: that of what happened to our families when we arrived here in the States”.

Ryan started writing his book after arriving home from Cambodia with his grandmother & brother in 2015. He carefully compiled his data & research, working with Chinese Cambodian elders at the local temples in the Bay Area to verify the information, much of it based on oral history. For AAPI Heritage Month, Ryan wants to remind his students & especially his fellow Asian/Southeast Asian colleagues “if we are not taking time to write & document our own history, we are allowing others to tell our stories for us”. 

The book can be purchased on his website: allthingscambodian.square.site – nearly all the proceeds of the book will be donated to the Cambodian temple Wat Khemara Rangsey in San Jose later this year.

Article by Vivian Paw | Photo is the cover of the e-Book, Khmer Gat Chen

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *